Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Saratoga, here I come!


Finally had the time…and mental momentum….to finish my American contingent for my certain portion of the American Revolutionary War Saratoga campaign.  The battles to come will be a contrast in tactics.  I have certainly taken the mythical view so thusly the Americans will have good-shooting small skirmish militia units, some as veterans, with (for now) only a small Continental regiment and with artillery support verses very large but timid Brunswick Germans units.  The latter formed a large portion of the British army descending the Hudson River Valley in 1777.

I have taken the narrative of the historical campaign battles and thus will have fictional scenarios involving the Brunswickers attacking across open fields with the Americans firing into their ranks (an aggressive commander [Gen. B. Arnold?] leading);  the Germans attacking American defences well defended by artillery (allowing for American commander ‘Granny’ Gates’ “let ‘em come to us” plan if came to pass);  or reversing the latter scenario and having the Germans defend their built defenses against the American assault per the Breymann’s Redoubt engagement
'Benedict' encouraging the troops
In any case, the rules will be Osprey’s Rebels and Patriots [thus the mixed basing styles].  Speaking of which, the reader will have noted that the Germans (mostly Brunswick but there was attached a unit of Hessian infantry with accompanying artillery unit -  as those figures were slightly different posed and I had knowledge of that unit's flag!) have a ranked look while the Americans are on round bases either in group or larger singles.  This was deliberate as to convey the difference in fighting style (using the traditional view).
The militia form up behind the log emplacements 
One of the 'heavy' guns and another unit of militia skirmishers holding the right of the camp

The American figures are mostly Perry “Southern Militia” re-purposed [ obviously MY battles will be fought on exceptionally pleasant October days for the boys to be in shirts only! ] The Germans are old Foundry SYW Prussians (the 1777 German uniform continued to be virtually a copy or close enough….)  The Americans happen also to be artillery heavy but they did have a fair amount of guns in their encampments historically so.  Guns are points expensive in RaP so it might be fun to play out a scenario in which the American camp is defended primarily only by artillery and see if the firepower is enough to stop the German advance.
Part of the much more numerous German force

For once, I actually had a plan for the collection before ( ! ) painting/basing - not before having the  figures but 2 of 3 in the planning is good for me!  Other than perhaps another Continental unit to make it a bit more historical in composition, I have enough in size to conduct the battles I wish to run and the historical context to provide the scenario inspirations I will enjoy.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

The "Cattle" Expedition


Up to now I have always had plenty of time to engage in my favourite hobby, but with the recent employment at a 9-5 job, my wargaming time has significantly decreased.  As my dearth of posts recently can attest, it is certainly a time killer.  “Try to do any with that AND three kids!” was the retort from a couple of my wargamer friends!

Anyway, as a last, before Christmas game, I hosted a colonial British Afghan expedition to supply cattle to a far outpost.  Using my “veteran” (painted c.1987) Ral Partha ‘true 25s’,   I had all six of the players play on the same side, while I would control the natives via “auto-pilot” chart and hidden deployment.

In a rare cooperative method the gents allocated troops and deployment sharing an overall plan.  Sort of countering this, I also added my patented card sequence which uses a sequencing hierarchy to have the players move, should they choose, before others.  Some used this, others just flipped over the next card they had, but this together with the rules (The Men Who Would Be Kings - TMWWBK) ensured a lack of foreknowledge of who-moves-next.
The Imperial force marches
The terrain was largely unknown to the players - but of course they had the 2,000+ feet of elevation advantage standing around the table,  the normal “does this give me cover?” was necessarily indicated.
The logistical centre of the column advances
My collection is a bit on the small side, but with no way of adding to, I went with dividing all the units into six figures (8 for the natives) using the half-size option and increasing the speed and decreasing the shooting hits to offset.  So with that, and the usual poor shooting of the warriors under my diced control, the overall casualties were light (perhaps more realistic than the normal for most wargaming huge casualty numbers?)
The Gordon Highlanders having covered the left bank of the waterway, crosses to join the column

We still employed the rule’s activation which had the effect of the metal soldiers acting more prudently than their erst while commanders who might wish them to advance across open ground to “check out the unoccupied village” but the unit quite unwilling to move from their cover….

It came as no surprise to the colonials that as they neared their destination, the inviting British Regimental flag (they could not have seen the blood smears) was taken down and replaced by a horde of tribal warriors.  These were largely dealt with by rifle fire from the near by rocky knoll (and my usual very poor dice rolling for the apparently inept locals).  Throughout the affair I would regularly roll low - a string of four 1s at one point - so the tribal warriors seemed to have little heart in fighting and would rather withdraw than to engage, but much to the relief of the Colonial players.
The fort with one of the tribal units having charged outside the gates
The Highlanders, having gained the top of the knoll, exchange shots with the unit in the tower.
The mountain gun, at the right, sets up for the final shots of the battle.
 The mule-borne mountain gun was however finally set up and after fighting off three (!) separate attacks of the half-hearted natives (my dice rolling in full evidence here) to finally put in two blasts to knock down the gate.  With the fort retaken and the cattle still safe, the players rejoiced in their victory.
….then put on their coats and went out into the rain for home…..

Friday, 8 November 2019

Monitor and Merrimack


ACW naval - modeller madness, part 1

A long time ago I built “The Monitor” the famous American Civil War ironclad warship. Now I am not a particularly fastidious model maker and I like the task of creating a “reasonable” likeness out of cheap materials at hand.  No $28 anchor chains for me.  I choose materials like foam core, bits of cardboard and whatever is lying about.  For example this Monitor is of a foamcore hull and a plastic hairspray lid if I am not mistaken.

I happened to open up the box containing said model which had a self-written note stating “DO NOT make another model as you have lots in 1:1200 scale already!”  Oh man, I have to write that to myself?!  But I did a Minion “pfft” sound and shrug and, seemingly without conscious thought, went about making the companion “Merrimac”

[editorial note:  While purists, Confederate sympathizers, or legalists might take offensive and state the ship was christened “CSS Virginia”,  I am going with the ‘usual’ Merrimac name]

The Merrimac is a difficult ship to make as it has long sloped sides connected by rounded and sloped ends.  To work with card or plastic would be thus tricky to get the shapes correct.  I thus decided on an available block of dense blue styrofoam.  Still very tricky to shape with a long straight but angled cuts with corresponding ends rounded.  With help of a jury-rigged matt cutting device (and a couple of failed tries!) I managed to get the side cuts done.  The angle of the slope is not quite correct which should be at 35 degrees but it was the best I could do and is sloped.  The ends proved easier than anticipated as trimming with a knife brought down the sloped curves close to the mark and the styrofoam was surprisingly easy to sand (never having done such before)
Not small (approx.  very approximately 1:200)  Note the rather poorly rendered grating of the 'old' Monitor.


I am doing the waterline version which does not show the oft illustrated version of the full hull - even the beautiful Thoroughbred Models 1:600 version shows the full length which was submerged.  Probably done for any ramming or collision events in a game.  I must look into that.  However, the basic shape was done.  The gunports were simply carved into the insulating material and bamboo skewers were embedded and cut off at the same length.  After starting to cover the pivot gun ports at either end corners (as these were not so skillfully completed!) I read that the historic ship went to battle without this protection.  I left the ones done but did not now need to do the others.

[editoral note: Found on Wikipedia "these six bow and stern gun ports had exterior iron shutters installed to protect their cannon. There were four gun ports on each broadside; their protective iron shutters remained uninstalled during both days of the Battle of Hampton Roads."]
 So I got lucky then in my haphazard research and construction!

my Merrimac 

The deck details on the top are old railroad window forms.  The smaller intake chimneys on the top deck are cut out corners of round plastic sprues and the large stack itself an old cardboard tampon applicator - hey, it was the perfect dimensions for the 8 foot diameter chimney….
The full hull illustration found.  The end, bottom portion of the casement and hull all were submerged.

The odd shaped pilot house pyramid is a bit of green stuff; and the false bow - to keep the water from piling up against the front casement - are pieces of card painted as the wood timber construction.  The small rowboats to each side are 3D prints made to my specification generously by ChrisP, a wargame buddy, with my davits plastic packaging material cut into shape and inserted into the hull.
With flag at half-mast and a boat along side are we witnessing a surrender?  Na, just my (wrong) flag was not permanently attached.  It was the first Confederate National Flag that the ship flew.


ACW naval - modeller madness, part 2

Played a few games using the two ships as I am developing rules for the ironclad fight based on “What a Tanker” .  Fun, two-player game, but with the same circling maneuvering, firing with little effect, as the historical engagement!
The Merrimack and Monitor (MkI) in game action in muddy waters

Having played this naval game with DennisC at the club the previous night,  I noticed some damage to my Monitor’s turret, no doubt caused by moving around the gun directional marker required for this glued down cardboard part.  The top grating was represented merely by rather poorly painted lines (I did not say I was a good model builder!), so I was willing to remove to repaint and replace.
   As I built the vessel a long time ago, I discovered I had simply glued two metal gun barrels on the bottom.  If I paint the interior black I could use an open grate as did the historical ship.  It would look good.  As I was looking for appropriate ‘grating’ I discovered some other bits I had collected for making of other ships including various caps for monitor style turrets.  Among these were liquor bottle stoppers. As in the back of my mind the Monitor’s turret, especially now, seemed a bit off.  Too large.   So curiously, I checked the dimensions:

Monitor’s turret was 20ft diameter by about 10ft high.  So to my 1:200 scale it’s diameter should be calculated as 20 feet x 12 inches = 240 inches divided by 200 (scale) = 1.2 inches (19/16) or 1 and 3/16 inches.

….checking the wooden cap to my booze bottle stopper… 1 and 3/16”  !!!

The height is perfect also!  With the attached cork trimmed this would allow me to give the model a moving turret.  No more required marker.

Well then, a change was in order and Monitor Mk II was begun.  After a failed first attempt at drilling gunports into the solid wood (luckily I had several of these stoppers….)  I was happy with the holes created (drilling was ideal as the ports had rounded ends).  The muzzle ends of 25mm scaled barrels were cut short and glued in and the turret painted black.
the Merrimac along side Monitor MkII...now better in scale....

The hull is cut from black foamcore from a template scaled to a top-down view of the ship.  The smoke stack of the older model was not replaced as historically this was not installed and in any event, I had this in a wrong design anyway!.  The overall shape and details are more historical accurate but Iron plates were again indicated by lead pencil lines and rivets by dots. Lots of dots, but done while watching sports so not so tedious to do and surprisingly effective.

Anyway, not an award winner by any means, but looks ok to be pushed around on the table top.
an artists impression of the Battle of Hampton Roads and the two famous ships

[The “decommissioned” older model is now going to help my 15mm armies with offshore support]

Friday, 11 October 2019

WaT battle of a nameless town


Another all-tank battle in the frozen depths of the Russian winter of 1941….

We had four players with the Russian players, DaveMcN of course taking, what he believes to be the best of the Soviet tanks available, in the T-34;  and his comrade Francis taking two of the T-26 (points equalling any other tank).  The “CocaCola” Dave and myself taking a Pzkw III and Pz38t respectively.

A humous point of the game having (the usually Russian-playing) me wanting to fire upon the Pzkw III as ‘C-C’ Dave had driven his tank around the far side of the houses to face Soviet Dave who (through my misinterpretation of the rules) was able to drive his T-34 across the table and now also facing the ‘wrong’ direction.  Even with a flank shot that I could not get many shots in. The bad, bad and few dice!  Francis scurrying along walls like a rat skillfully moving his tanks along the buildings  now saw he could position his little beasts to shoot the Pzkw III up the a*s (always a beneficial tactic in tank warfare) and also shoot my Pz38t in the flank (a still useful tactic) thus pounding both of German vehicles to submission.
Showing the t-34 (left foreground) facing off with the Pzkw III (this side of the house) both facing in the 'wrong direction'. My Pz 38t on the right and the two T-26s in the background.
The game was unique in that all the combatants were to be within an 18” radius of each other by the end of the game.  Rather more entertaining than the “find a hiding spot a shoot at long range” approach….
all the combatants within close range of each other!


Sunday, 6 October 2019

What a Tanker! BIG battle


I wanted another go at “What a Tanker!” so I put out an email to the usual club crowd of my hosting. I got a couple of replies which was usual.  What I didn't expect the number of players joining up…just before starting I looked around the room and there were the usual games going on - the fantasy crowd and the small games along the window wall, the big-table small ship naval game, the WW1 Canvas Eagles game at it usual table - but nothing else.  Lots of empty tables as all the historical wargamers were here at my rather white table, many with their own tanks, ready to start shooting!  I was a bit stunned to be honest.  Eventually we had 12 players!  I have never heard of a WaT game having such numbers. Luckily I could find or have a few of the veterans of the game find dashboards for all.  But 12?!
I quickly had each German player pair up with a Russian player.  I instructed the German player to roll his command dice at the same time as the Russian with the effect that we had only a six player rotation overall.  If the same two players were able to shoot at the other, a simple roll-off would determine who would ‘activate’ first.  This only occurred a few times during the game and did not cause any problems.  This new system worked very well and I was quite pleased with myself for inventing it off-the-cuff as it certainly lowered the downtime of the players awaiting their turn.

Amusingly it was only halfway through the game when I was asked loudly by several players to repeat the scenario victory points. I guess all that before-the-start-discussion was mute once the shells start flying (grin) .  The Russians I declared must be within 4 inches of the distant church while the Germans must have at least a tank in the burnt out village to win.  I hoped this would encourage movement forward rather than the “sit and shoot” tactic.  The Russians were more aggressive and a Lend-Lease Matilda, driven by a rookie player encouraged by the tank’s high armour rating (for this time of the war in 1941!),  finally got in a position to make a late game run to the church but the continual pounding by the Germans had reduced his command dice significantly.  He got close but no drive dice doomed his fate.  Aimed flank shots had his crew bail out.  The Russian last hope was a t-34 but it was rammed (!) and enough dice loss also doomed this Russian advance.
my t-26 following the Matilda trundling forward ...to its, and my demise in a turn or two... (note the white washed PzKwIII in the distance, and the couple of Pz 38t lurking at the woods)


showing all 6 Russian tanks (2 are already done for) In the background is the Russian Matilda - camouflaged near the trees advancing with the rather dubious support of my second t-26 (photo by Bill E)

My couple of vintage t-26s did not help much (I spawned the first one only to have the second reduced to the same fate…not surprising with seemingly tinfoil armour) With none near their victory spots the game ended in a draw.  But the players seemed to enjoy the game which is the real victory.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

AWI action near Fort Anne





July 9th, 1777

 To his Excellency Lt. Gen Burgoyne

It is my pleasure to relate the clearing of the rebels near Fort Anne allowing Excellency's continued advance to Albany

Please indulge me to describe the actions of hie Excellency's Brunswick forces this day in service of the King.

The Grenadiers had the post of honour on the right of our front line with the Regiment of v.Sprecht to the left. The second line wascomposed of my regiment and that of Hesse-Hanau.  Due to the constriction of the field, the v.Rhetz formed column on the left while the Dragoons (dismounted) moved in the light woods to the right of the field. Our light cannon was in reserve.
My German force of primarily Brunswick units during the Saratoga Campaign of 1777.  Previously employed in the SYW, they have been recently "redeployed" and rebased.  
The American rebel militia at the far end of the field. 
a fence half-way along the field at appropriately musket shot to the rebels position within the forest had Specht’s regiment halt for a turn to cross [1] so that the column of v. Rhetz moving swifter took up the lead formation at while forming line of battle sustained fire from the hidden rebels but without pause continued their maneuvers [2].  The fire from the forest then ceased [3]
allowing the v Rhetz to move to the fence marking the end of the field. 
Von Rhetz's Regiment in column
now forming into line 
the Grenadiers (a combined unit from the grenadier companies of all the regiments) stand before the fence facing fire from the rebel "in the shadows" .
The Grenadiers meanwhile gainfully crossed the fence and advanced toward the tree-obscured rebel militia but halted before the final advance [4] which, with a huzza, cleared the final rebels from our path of advance [5] but at a heavy cost of 30% casualties and 6% of our total this day [6]. 

Your Obedient Servant,

Baron Riedesel 

Notes:
[1] I placed the fence at 20” from the militia position and for each inch the leading German unit came closer to the Americans, the harder for them to roll under d20 and thus ‘stay to their guns’ and continue the fight. I placed a disorder for failure which they needed to roll off (per the rules) before they were able to fire (their only activation action)
[2] I rather like the look of the formed line on which the figures are based rather than the proscribed ‘blob’ allowed of the rules, so I had this unit ‘go through the motions’. Most of the units are a healthy 18 figures strong. Rules ='large unit' which can take more casualties to get to the troublesome 50%.
[3] the Militia on the right failed their ‘morale test’ and retreated from the fence into the forest not allowing firing.
[4] they, of course, failed activation and stood there inches from the fence and the militia who passed their morale test and directed well placed shots into the Grenadiers.  Most of the Grenadier casualties occurred at his stage.
[5] the Grenadiers having passed their morale test (needing the +1 for elites to do so!) charged the fence line and the militia morale broke.  The Germans did not fire a shot during the engagement.
[6] The v.Rhetz regiment sustained one hit.  The rebel casualties are unknown but thought to be negligible.
celebrating the victory

Sunday, 15 September 2019

2nd and 3rd Battles at Plotnaya


At the one-day mini-convention the club put on, I decided to host an extended session of my “What a Tanker!” Russian winter end of 1941 affair.

WillB donated the use of his tanks if required as he went off to play a CoC game, so my first game had players select his 38t and one of my PzIII vs his Russian Valentine. I joined the Russians with the Lend-Lease Matilda so making it an even 2 on 2 battle.

The German instructions were to 1. control the town, 2. secure the bridge, 3. and for complete victory get one tank off the Russian side of the table.
The Russians were to 1. have the engineers (in the truck) escorted to the bridge, 2. ensure the bridge’s destruction, 3. and if possible control the town for a complete victory.

I used a numbered chip out of the bag initiative system rather than the roll off by players thereby all of them knowing the sequence.  More of a ‘unsuredness’ factor.

The truck also used the command dice but ignored all but the ‘Drive’ and ‘Wild’ dice.  The Germans ignored the truck (and the player’s did not even ask me what it was for!) but as I stopped at the bridge and had soldiers get off the truck and indicated that future ‘Wild’ dice would now indicate the engineering progress of wiring the bridge. NOW the truck was targeted and, as it had just stopped, were the explosives unloaded?  A dice roll indicated no and so a fire ball ensued!
Russian main means for the bridge's destruction go up in a fire ball

However the Germans were nonetheless getting pounded.  No outright destruction but a slow reduction of temporary command dice until the PzIII needed to be abandoned after my Matilda gained his flank within the town.  About half way through the battle, my tank was the only one with all its command dice intact.  I managed to slowly (I was driving a “slow” tank, but I do throw lots of ones!) around the backside of the town to hit the 38t in the butt.  No destruction again but the German crew again was forced to bailout so having the Russians protecting the bridge.
The Russian Lend-Lease 
taking a shot at the PzIII
and later the 38t in the rear

——-
With the second session, a new group of players, and while leaving the terrain the same, had the orientation change 90 degrees and now three players aside.  I played German this time with a ‘fast’ 38t to make better use of all the 1s aka “Drive” dice I usually roll.

I gave up on any scenario description - players tend to forget those anyway and just blast away in any event!  I also gave up trying to gain a turn by turn description as “then that tank moved 4 inches, turning its turret and loaded a shell” is not very interesting.  So I will say that I was brewed up on turn 2 and a Russian shortly thereafter. Wow, it can happen, just not often…
I had us come in again at a random position in a couple of turns later.

My second 38t sat a few turns at the table edge, firing away ineffectually at a T-34 in the town a couple of obstructions away (meaning aiming is harder)  and l loudly declared that I uncharacteristically am not rolling the 1s I should be with a fast tank and all.  Well OF COURSE the next initiative I now roll FOUR 1s and a ‘Wild’ dice…so off I raced having the most fun racking up the inches. HOWEVER, I ran out of distance while in the middle of the town not quite having the angle to hit a Russian Valentine in the rear and now having that T-34 in my rear! Oops, bad tactics.
reversing out of trouble but into a close firing angle

But with the dice being as they are I managed to back up thereby gaining the T-34 in my sights as it had moved out from behind the building to put a shot into me but unable to fire.  I too, not able so we finally move to positions opposite a snow-covered fence.
after a few turns of maneuver now across the fence

With after an extended dinner break and near end of the session time, the game dissolved but at least we had a couple of brew ups.  Early war tanks, it was concluded, may get the 1 or 2 dice difference in strike vs armour throws to reduce the enemy’s effectiveness bit-by-bit but hard (not impossible but hard) to get the 3 dice difference with only 4 or 5 dice thrown needed for immediate kills compared to large volume of dice which are rolled in late war tanks.

But nice to finally have all the snow covered terrain and white-washed tanks on the table.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

"barbed wire" and tutorial?


I looked upon some lone “dead” sprues and noted the regularity of the tabs (the round bits that stick out from the frame). Like for use as the bases of fence posts. Very thin fence posts of course.  More like thin metal spikes really.  Well, if I use thin plastic rod, drilled in a bit to make them stronger bond, I could use wire to make “barbed wire” emplacements. Hmm.

Do I need these defences?  Not now but that lack of need has never stopped me from creating a bit of terrain piece before….so I set about.  The two sprues were divided into even frames for which I cut from hardboard 4 similar bases. The holes drilled and rods glued in.  The frames were covered in cheap self-hardening clay.  While I intended to just paint the grey clay an earthy color (aka WW1 mud and all) and just flock the edges (to blend it into the tabletop), the cheap stuff cracked a lot so I was forced to put on a glue layer to prevent more cracking later and cover these crevices with flocking.

showing progression from top to bottom
....to finished terrain piece. 

My wiring quickly had the rods snap off as they were unequal to the strain of the looping.  So much for that idea.  But then I remembered purchasing some flexible “barbed” wire at the LFGS.  
I decided upon a diameter based on a 28mm figure and made tight curls using a lip balm container (!)  which had the correct measurement.

I placed the curls carefully over the rods (painted a metal color) but had not the need to attach. They lay there and could be employed for other tasks if needed.

I suppose I should really paint the wire a steel or metal color and add rust effects for 'realism' but the shiny wire has the new and dangerous look to it!

… of course now I am thinking to scrounge around for more dead sprues - of appropriate requirements - to create more of these defensive positions.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

WaT Wreck Obstruction


While I prefer the wide open spaces of the Russian Steppe to conduct a game of What a Tanker - more bang, less messing about - an occasional bit of ‘obstruction’ is not amiss.  I do have fences and trees and the usual terrain, but to keep a different look and a bit of 'eye-candy', I created an old “wrecked tank”.
It was much a "hmm, what can I do with this?" idea swiftly made after I had torn all the supports from the 3D print tanks I was provided. Necessary for the print construction, these bits are usually tossed as unusable scraps but my ‘cheapy wargamer brain” thought that, with a large degree of “wargamer squint”, it kinda would work especially with a liberal covering of 'snow'.
 The base square edged hopefully makes any LOS easier to adjudicate.



If Napoleon and Wellington ever tweeted:
In an internet cafe somewhere near Hougomont, 18th June, 1815.....
Capt. Mercer noticing Wellington looking over his shoulder. "The Ogre is online, permission to give him a scathing comment?"
Wellington:  "Certainly not!  Generals have better things to do than to bad tweet each other!"

Friday, 23 August 2019

Winter WaT add ons

Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner of the Two Fat Lardies must do a lot of moaning when wargamers want to stretch a perfectly fine set of rules to add yet more onto them.  With that I have already seen examples by others the use of panzerfaust and bazooka armed infantry.  Of course I will add the use of AT guns into the mix (if they haven't been already as they are a natural add-on.  Basically a gun without the armor and the immediate ability to move!

As I am doing the Battle of Moscow with the Russians defending, and if we have too many German tanks or players wanting to play the baddies, I have constructed a AT gun emplacement as a means to even things out...or make them interesting....

foam core and wood dowel construction

the inspiration from an advert in one of the 'glossies' 
With "weathering" added.  More like a very heavy frost than snow.

the gun is the inside tube of an ballpoint pen
The two extra logs on the top add to the hasty construction look of the emplacement but actually serve as arc markers showing 60 degrees from the rear barrel of the gun.

The rear showing the gun struts stuck into the foam core interior. Thin pieces of styrene are bent and glued to the ends of rod to simulate the AT gun.
Glue infused paper is used to hide the lack of an actual gun model.  Beads are used as shell casings. Pieces of balsa wood are ammo boxes. Obviously the boys have the blankets down in an attempt to stay warm....